Reflection On Rutger Bregman’S Ted Talk On Poverty
Intro to Sociology Dr. Carl 8 October 2018 Ted Talk Reflection After defining poverty as a lack of cash rather than a lack of knowledge, Rutger Bregman presents a seemingly valid proposal towards poverty eradication by alluding to the Mincome experiment in Dauphin, Canada. As the Ted talk progressed, I became increasingly skeptical of Bregman’s proposal because the solution seemed too feasible. If the 1970’s experiment was successful in Dauphin, and “similar results have since been found in countless other experiments around the globe, from the US to India,” then why hasn’t the basic income guarantee been implemented nationally by now? I believe that defining poverty incorrectly, social stratification, funding flaws, and experimental error demote and invalidate Bregman’s proposal: it is simply “too good to be true. ” The proposal is impossible to successfully implement since funding through negative income taxes (NIT) ignores social stratification- a component of symbolic interactionism. Because NIT is not based on “discretionary determination of need” unlike traditional welfare, the distribution of subsidies does not ensure that people will have incomes that support their materialistic temptations, causing people to continue working (Hum, Derek, Wane 264). Maybe that is the reason “people didn't quit their jobs,” or maybe it is because these people knew they were part of an experiment and that this newfound freetime was temporary, reinforcing the Hawthorne Effect (Bregman). So, the “millions of people feel that their jobs have little meaning or significance” are left to work (Bregman). These materialistic lifestyles and abuse of subsidies are justified through socialization and social stratification.
Also, the people who receive these subsidies may not know how to manage this newfound money and regress to poverty. Poverty is inevitable, and defining poverty simply as a “lack of cash” rather than a lack of cash and wealth, associated with social status is part of the problem of Bregman’s proposal: the reason I believe Bregman’s proposal is insufficient has to do with my disagreement with his definition of poverty, thus my disapproval of his solution. Based on the poverty line and the number of people in a household rather than the need of the individuals, the criteria for basic income guarantee financial distribution is a concern since it does not account for the near poor nor does it take into account medical or daycare expenses, forcing people to continue struggling with pre-existing role conflicts and strains as they juggle their delegated powers of workers and parents. Funding through NIT infringes on Bregman’s vague goal of happiness spread and amount of meaning given once poverty is subdued.
Also, failure to operationalize happiness and meaning acknowledges the infeasibility of the proposal because these arbitrary concepts are defined differently for every person based on their individual interactions, meaning one solution to poverty would not appease everyone. Additionally, just because a family is granted this income does not mean the idea of “energy and talent” is plausible since people still cannot afford lessons to foster those traits and skills. a guaranteed basic income is not possible if funded by NIT because support level and tax rates make the cost of the program variable. The 175 billion dollar cost neglects the prospect of declining work incentives, thus ignoring the subsequent changes in income to subsidy ratio that “satisfies” one’s aspirations, let alone their basic needs. Ignorance in funding remains partially culpable for the implausibility of Bregman’s proposal. Major flaws of the longitudinal experiments that Bregman based his whole proposal on questions the proposal’s legitimacy. For instance, the samples used to conduct these experiments were not random: “These households may or may not choose to participate, depending on the size of the compensated wage effect and the proximity of their income” (Hum, Derek, Wane 278). Sampling error could justify the claimed correlations of hospitalization to poverty eradication: none of the experiments “produced direct evidence of a causal relationship between income support and health outcomes” of these people (Hum, Derek, Wane 278). Through these reasons and aforementioned explanations, Bregman’s simple proposal would not alleviate this complex predicament of poverty. If this proposal were not implemented, then the lower class would benefit socially, and the upper class and United States government would benefit financially. If the policy were implemented, the lower class would grow dependent on the government which would be more costly to fund, implying that those that pay more of the tax (the affluent) are harmed by the plan. Not putting in place the proposal would foster independence and work ethic among the poor, so they would benefit socially. By not putting this proposal in place, the government could use the tax money to cover other expenditures, fund pork-barrel legislation to benefit all classes and gain support, and/or invest rather than topping off only the income of the poor.
Also, because the aggregate dollar amount of taxes paid by upper classes is larger than that of the lower class, most of the money the lower class would get as subsidies would come from the already self-sufficient upper class. Bregman’s claim that,“We should get rid of the vast industry of paternalistic bureaucrats when we could simply hand over their salaries to the poor they're supposed to help” would then be supported. Since new mothers and students would quit their jobs to stay in school, these “paternalistic bureaucrats” would not benefit; not implementing this proposal would benefit the upper class since they would not be losing money over time to fund the former workers who keep their corporations/branches functioning properly. By somehow implementing this policy successfully, the lower class would benefit. Because the basic needs are already met for the upper class with the current earned income tax credit system, they would not benefit from the program unlike the lower class who would under the NIT system since their basic needs would finally be met. Because more classes benefit from keeping the proposal at bay, it is understandable why the United States has not nationally integrated the plan anytime after the Dauphin experiment.